ITC uses innovative approach to deliver Trade Facilitation Agreement training in Sierra Leone

8 May 2015
ITC News

In an attempt to expand the reach of capacity building efforts while saving costs, ITC is working with Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Trade and Industry to deliver training on the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) via video-conference.

One end of the live video feed is at the World Bank office in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, where a group of 25 representatives from the private sector, border agencies and national authorities will gather for each of the four sessions from 5-13 May. At the other is ITC’s trade facilitation team, speaking from the agency’s headquarters in Geneva.

This first national ‘e-workshop’ on trade facilitation was prompted by a request from the Sierra Leonean government for information and assistance on how to categorize its future obligations under the TFA and formally notify them to the WTO.

Under the TFA’s ground-breaking provisions that link developing countries’ obligation to implement the agreement with having the capacity to do so, governments must identify which of their TFA commitments they can put in place immediately (‘Category A’), and which would require extra time (‘Category B’) or technical and financial assistance (‘Category C’) to implement. The trade facilitation agreement sets out rules for making border and customs procedures simpler, faster and more transparent. This in turn promises to reduce trading costs and times, which would be particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized traders.

The workshop aims at increasing Sierra Leonean stakeholders’ awareness of the benefits of the TFA and the agreement’s legal and policy implications. A key objective is helping the Government of Sierra Leone with determining how to categorize and notify measures resulting from the agreement. Sessions will cover trade facilitation principles, Sierra Leone’s current trade facilitation performance and obligations under the TFA. The country’s priorities for trade facilitation reforms are being debated.

At the end of the workshop, participants’ recommendations on Sierra Leone’s categorization of TFA commitments will be gathered into a synthesis document and submitted to national authorities for validation.

ITC and the Sierra Leonean trade ministry organised the workshop in collaboration with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as part of the Trade Negotiation Capacity Building Project co-funded by ECOWAS and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The tripartite partnership and innovative delivery mechanism will allow ITC to support Sierra Leone’s efforts to meet TFA deadlines and identify pressing trade facilitation reforms in an efficient and cost-effective manner.